Email headers have the helpful habit of identifying all the people who are involved in the communication. Letters written in Greek were like that too. This is especially helpful for us because, like all good stories, every book of the Bible encourages us to identify with some of the characters, and to compare/contrast their reactions to God with our own. In a play it would be called a cast list, but this letter is no fictional fantasy; all the 'players' were living for real ... which is why we need to pay good attention to how they relate to God, because He wants to relate with us too.
Paul was writing under house arrest in Rome, where Timothy was his companion and assistant in gospel ministry to the many people who visited him (Acts 28:30). They knew that they were there because the Lord had brought them to share the gospel in the centre of the Roman Empire (Acts 23:11). They were servants of the Lord and of the gospel message (Ephesians 3:7), and they wanted the church to serve the Lord and share the gospel in the city of Philippi.
New believers in Christ in Philippi formed the first church in Europe. They had generously provided funds and resources to help Paul's missionary activities; their willing self-sacrifice was a great encouragement to Paul (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). It was regular funding at a very difficult time, and their joyful giving helped to establish a special bond with the apostle (Philippians 4:14-16). Their leaders were truly servant hearted and Paul felt great warmth of affection for them and the whole church (Philippians 1:3-5). We can learn much from their commitment in providing the resources for Paul’s missionary journey even though we may consider we have little extra to give away.
Paul was writing to encourage this church, because they would go through hard times too (Philippians 1:29). The opening sentences are more than just a traditional greeting. Paul wanted them to lift their eyes above the horizon of their circumstances to the grace of God. He wanted them to experience the peace that comes from being in good relationship with Him. The Lord Jesus Christ was not only the Christians' example of a life of grace and peace, but is the only person who can give us these gifts and help us to live like Him. Without them we can have no confidence of total security in Christ. But if we do have that confidence, going to work becomes a whole new world, doesn't it?
© Dr Paul Adams